Oral melatonin can protect the small intestine in rats subjected to radiotherapy of the tongue, according to a study published April 12, 2017 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Germaine Escames from Universidad de Granada, Spain, and colleagues.
Gut toxicity -- a debilitating condition involving deep ulcerations -- can limit the doses of radiotherapy given to cancer patients. However, this side effect currently has no effective treatment. Following up on their previous work suggesting that melatonin might protect the gut from radiotherapy, Escames and colleagues irradiated the tongues of rats daily for five days, treated the rats with oral melatonin-gel for 21 days after radiation, and then assessed their small intestines for changes.
The researchers found that melatonin helped protect the small intestine of rats from radiotherapy, likely by protecting mitochondria and so reducing inflammation. Inflammatory mediators increase intestinal cell death, and the researchers found that melatonin reduced intestinal cell death in rats, thus facilitating intestinal recovery. This work suggests that oral treatment with melatonin might help prevent radiotherapy-induced gut toxicity in cancer patients.
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Citation: Fernández-Gil B, Moneim AEA, Ortiz F, Shen Y-Q, Soto-Mercado V, Mendivil-Perez M, et al. (2017) Melatonin protects rats from radiotherapy-induced small intestine toxicity. PLoS ONE 12(4): e0174474. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0174474
Funding: This study was partially supported by grant no. SAF2009-14037 from the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitivity (MINECO), GREIB.PT_2010_04 from the CEIBiotic Program of the University of Granada, Spain, and CTS-101 from the Consejería de Innovación, Ciencia y Empresa, Junta de Andalucía, Spain.
Competing Interests: Patent pending: This study has been submitted to the patent's offices at the "University of Granada". Please note that the results of this manuscript have been submitted to patent protection (application number P201130792; title: "Use of melatonin for treating and/or preventing mucositis"; date:17/1/2015). However, this does not alter the authors' adherence to PLOS ONE policies on sharing data and materials.